“Nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”
In late July, President Trump asked his military advisers to develop 28,000 new nuclear warheads, as soon as possible. The request came after the commander-in-chief saw a briefing slide that charted the decline of America’s nuclear stockpile since the height of the Cold War.
This decline was the product of deliberate policy, and mandated by disarmament treaties. Ronald Reagan, and every president after him, had concluded that it was in our nation’s interest to promote nuclear de-proliferation. After all, the more nuclear weapons in the world, the higher the chance that one could fall into the hands of terrorist organization or rogue state. And, anyhow, America already has enough atomic firepower to end most — if not all — human life. From the perspective of a status quo nuclear superpower, the value of an international norm against proliferation would seem obvious.
But not from the perspective of our commander-in-chief. As Trump examined the chart’s downward slope, none of these considerations flickered in his mind. Instead the president’s sole takeaway was that our nation urgently needed to close the missile gap with its own history — and thereby ensure that, under Trump, America would have the biggest, classiest, most luxurious nuclear weapon stockpile the world had ever seen.
Or so this new report from NBC News suggests:
President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.
… Officials present said that Trump’s comments on a significantly increased arsenal came in response to a briefing slide that outlined America’s nuclear stockpile over the past 70 years. The president referenced the highest number on the chart — about 32,000 in the late 1960s — and told his team he wanted the U.S. to have that many now, officials said.
The U.S. currently has around 4,000 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
NBC News’ dispatch suggests that Trump’s advisers talked him down from this illegal and exorbitantly expensive request. It was shortly after this meeting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”
Trump denied NBC’s report Wednesday (and suggested that the network might actually be CNN, in disguise).
Earlier in his term, Trump reportedly asked his military advisers three times, in an hour-long meeting, why the U.S. doesn’t make greater use of its nuclear weapons.
In recent months, the president has repeatedly issued tacit threats of a preemptive military strike and/or nuclear attack against Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea. The Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said this week that these threats did not represent some deliberate “good cop, bad cop” routine, but were merely the impulsive ravings of a man who sees the presidency as “a reality show.”
“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker told the New York Times, adding that “the vast majority” of Senate Republicans knew the same.
On Tuesday night, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reported that a “very prominent Republican” had told him that he and his colleagues “imagine” that if Trump ever “lunged” for the nuclear football, chief-of-staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might “tackle” him.
There are more than 39 months left in Trump’s first presidential term. His reelection campaign is already officially underway. And none of the Republicans in Congress who “know” that he is unfit for his office — and that his advisers must prevent him from taking reckless actions on a daily basis — have taken any measures to expedite his return to private life.